The Phillies began to lose the very next day, and then continued to lose regularly. They dropped two out of three at home to the worst team in baseball at the time, the division rival Atlanta Braves, starting a devastating 6-26 slide that crushed that Wildcard talk for good.
When Grapefruit League action ended and the Philadelphia Phillies left their spring training home in Clearwater, Florida back at the end of March, there were few who held high hopes for the coming 2016 season.
The Fightin’ Phils had ceased any serious fightin’ after a .500 season in 2012, one which put an end to a streak of five consecutive NL East crowns and nine straight winning seasons.
Entering 2016, the club and its fans had suffered through three consecutive losing seasons, including a 63-99 debacle a year ago that was the franchise’ worst since 1972, and left them at the very bottom of Major League Baseball.
So when 2016 opened with the Phillies getting swept out of Great American Ball Park by the host Cincinnati Reds, it just seemed like the team was in for more of the same.
After two weeks, they were still struggling along at 6-9 after losing four of their five games leading up to that point.
Then something suddenly and quite unexpectedly changed. The Phils walked-off the Washington Nationals and their own former closer, Jonathan Papelbon, on a mid-April Sunday afternoon at Citizens Bank Park.
That thrilling victory sparked a run of winning baseball, the likes of which had not been seen down in South Philly since the 2011 Phillies were setting a franchise record by wrapping up a 102-win campaign.
From that point through mid-May over a full month of the baseball calendar, the Phillies went 18-8 and surged up the NL East standings.
For a few heady hours following a 4-2 afternoon home win over the Miami Marlins on Wednesday, May 18th, the Phillies were tied for first place in the division.
That night, the Nationals stomped the New York Mets, pushing a half-game up on the Phillies, who would never again reach the top of the standings this season.
There were fans who were getting carried away with things here in Philly during that run, believing that it was possible that the club was ahead of schedule in their rebuilding program, and that perhaps they were ready to at least stay in the NL Wildcard conversation over the summer.
Alas, it wasn’t to be.
Once they came out of that tailspin in late June, the Phils basically tread water over the balance of the 2016 schedule, until suffering a final late-season collapse.
When the season got underway, I was opening my second season as the editor for the FanSided Phillies-centric site “That Ball’s Outta Here“, and predicted that this year’s club would finish with a 75-87 record.
Heading into the final two weeks, they had a shot, sitting with a 70-85 mark and having won three of their previous four games. It would take a 5-2 finish.
Instead, the Phillies dropped six straight, finally ending the skid and their 2016 with a victory on the final day of the season.
The final result was a 71-91 record, and a fourth place finish in the NL East Division. While it was an eight game improvement and one place up in the standings from 2015, by the end it really didn’t feel as though there had been much improvement at all.
Let’s take a segment-by-segment look back at the particulars, as well as a quick peek into the immediate future for the Phillies at this juncture of the ongoing rebuilding program.
CHECK HERE: ORIGINAL ARTICLE at “Call to the Pen” for the breakdown.